Living with Bipolar Disorder.

I would like to write more about my other chronic illnesses, not just Meniere’s.  It’s just that Meniere’s has ruled my life for a long time now.

Today, I’d like to discuss what it means for me to live with Bipolar Disorder.

First I’d like to explain there are different types of Bipolar Disorder.  (Formally known as Manic-Depression)

Bipolar Painting - J FLoRian Dunn artist (http://fineartamerica.com)

The following definitions of the different types of Bipolar Disorder is copied from the Mayo Clinic website. You can find the entire article here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bipolar-disorder/DS00356  It’s a very interesting article if you want to know more about Bipolar Disorder.

“Bipolar disorder is divided into several subtypes. Each has a different pattern of symptoms. Types of bipolar disorder include:

  • Bipolar I disorder. Mood swings with bipolar I cause significant difficulty in your job, school or relationships. Manic episodes can be severe and dangerous.
  • Bipolar II disorder. Bipolar II is less severe than bipolar I. You may have an elevated mood, irritability and some changes in your functioning, but generally you can carry on with your normal daily routine. Instead of full-blown mania, you have hypomania — a less severe form of mania. In bipolar II, periods of depression typically last longer than periods of hypomania.
  • Cyclothymic disorder. Cyclothymic disorder, also known as cyclothymia, is a mild form of bipolar disorder. With cyclothymia, hypomania and depression can be disruptive, but the highs and lows are not as severe as they are with other types of bipolar disorder.”

There is much more to know about Bipolar Disorder, but I won’t bore you with tons of details when you can look them up.  I know most of my readers like to research things.  This post is more about my experiences being Bipolar.

I have Bipolar I disorder.  When I would have an episode, it disrupted every part of my life.  I lost jobs, relationships, once I lost the place I was living, and I almost lost my life more than once.  During my episodes I would have periods of lost time.  Once, I couldn’t remember almost a month of my life.  Most of the episodes when I lost time were episodes of mania.

The depression episodes, sent me into the deepest darkest caverns of despair.  I was convinced no one cared, and the world would be better off without me in it.  I was in such agony, and couldn’t see any way out of it.  I thought of suicide many times, and attempted it more than once.  One time I came very close to succeeding.  I was involuntarily admitted to a mental hospital for nearly 3 weeks.  My best friend of 9 1/2 years and roommate decided she couldn’t take it and moved out the day I was released from the hospital.  I lost my job.  There were a few jobs where I lost control, was convinced my co-workers or boss were out to get me, and I walked out.  With nothing to fall back on.

The mania was at times sweet.  (this causes many not to stay on their medication, they miss the high of mania)  I would have creative binges.  I would paint for days on end, often not eating or sleeping.  But it had extreme down sides.  While in a manic state I didn’t think anything could hurt me.  I tried drugs, I had risky sexual exploits, I spent money I didn’t have…  During one manic episode I bought a Jeep, had the people at the dealership take the top down before I left the lot, and then drove to Washington, DC to meet someone I’d only talked to on the phone, or emailed.  He did work for the same company I did, but in a different city.  No one knew where I was going.  I was lucky, when I think of what could have happened, I shudder. (BTW – it took me a long time to figure out how to put the top on my Jeep) I would get credit card bills for things I didn’t remember buying.  I loved to treat people when I was manic, and I loved to buy gifts.  I would meet people who knew me, but I didn’t remember them.  By the time I found out I was Bipolar, I was facing bankruptcy.

At times I did what’s called rapid cycling.  I’d be low one moment and high the next….over and over.  It was mind boggling, and very scary for others around me.  I couldn’t keep friends.  Mania can turn to anger quickly.  I pushed people away, sometimes during awful fights, when I’d say things I didn’t mean.  I was cruel.

While depressed I was convinced things would never get better.

I was originally diagnosed with Bipolar disorder in my mid 20’s, after a suicide attempt.  Then a year of two later, I was told they were wrong, all my symptoms were caused by hypoglycemia.  Depression set in and  I was then diagnosed with clinical depression, and put on antidepressants.  These sent me into a major episode of mania.  I was taken off the antidepressants and told I had anxiety disorder, with another medication change, and another attempt at suicide.

This roundabout when on for some time.   One night, I cut myself numerous times trying to get up enough nerve to cut deeper.  Instead I called a suicide help line, and ended up being committed to a mental hospital.  This was the best thing that ever happened to me.  Even though I was once again misdiagnosed while I was there, with Borderline Personality Disorder, the group sessions were very helpful and I was now in the system.  This helped me find a therapist and psychiatrist who understood, and helped me.

After getting on the right medication, my life began to normalize.  However, I had learned behaviors to overcome.  I’d been undiagnosed for so many years, I only knew how to react to situations as I would before. I over reacted to everything.  Not to the extreme I would before, but I only knew to run or fight when confronted with strong emotions.  I did not know how to have healthy relationships.  Finally, after many years of therapy I feel I am the person I want to be.  I don’t blow up (most of the time).  I have good relationships.  I understand that much of what I did in the past was out of my control, but how I live my life now is my responsibility.  And that’s OK with me.

I wanted to add, this is one reason having PMDD/PMS disturbs me so much.  I’ve worked very hard to understand my emotions, and control them.  When I have these hormonal symptoms I again feel out of control, often so quick to anger it scares me.   Scares me more than I can explain.  I never want to the person I was before.

As of this writing, I’ve been stable for over 15 years.  (with only a few minor episodes when my medication needed adjusting.

I started this post on January 3rd.  I do not hide that I’m bipolar.  I’m quick to talk about it, to share my experiences so others may get help.  However, this was a difficult post to write, remembering who I used to be, the people I hurt, the self-destruction…  Mental illness and suicide still carry a lot of stigma.  Let’s start talking about it.  We need to make sure people are not afraid to seek help.  We need to help everyone understand that people with mental illnesses are still people.

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20 thoughts on “Living with Bipolar Disorder.

  1. You are very brave to tell your story — the good, the bad, and the ugly.I agree — its time to consider chronic mental health issues as chronic illnesses. not quite in the sense as that of a physical illness, but in the fact that it’s something you live with everyday (whether you’re on meds or no; seeing a therapist or no) and that it’s a part of who you are. The demons are always there; it’s how you choose to fight them (when you can) that counts.
    I think that folks react to mental illness in several ways. Unless you have experienced some form yourself — say chronic depression in my case (though biopolar 2 sure helps explain parts of my past life it’s scary) or had a friend or family member who has, it can be hard to understand that, like a chronic illness, you can’t “just snap out of it.”
    Sometimes, if you have experienced it yourself (or through a friend or family member) it’s hard to read about it — it brings back memories that aren’t pleasant. If you haven’t experienced the deepths of depression, it’s hard to understand just how black, deep, dark, and empty that space/hole is.
    There aren’t always happy endings or easy solutions with conditions like bipolar 1 or other mental health issues. I’m so glad you’ve found stable ground — though I throughly understand how PMDD/PMS can make you feel out of control. From age 11 when I first started having cycles, until surgerical menopause at age 35, then 9 years of hormones (only taking progesterone — my ugly pill — every three months. In 2003, I went off all hormones, and I don’t miss my cyles — though there are aspects of menopause — especially doing it twice that aren’t fun.
    When I was struggling with cycles, there was only PMS — I’m sure I had PMDD too — and the bipolar 2 could reach back that far or farther. Who knows.
    Anyway, again I applaud your bravery — your are truly an inspiration!

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    • Thank you…I’m not really brave. I’ve been through the hard part….telling the story isn’t nearly as scary as living it was.

      The reason I tell all, the good, bad and ugly of my conditions is to let people know they aren’t alone, and to help lessen the stigma.

      some people will always have a hard time dealing with any type of chronic illness, and many will always have a hard time with any mental illness. But if we can start talking about it more…perhaps we’ll help people understand…I have an illness, I’m not that illness!

      (I remember after I was stable, a cousin of mine was coming to visit me…we’re close in age, and he had lost his father not long before and wanted to lean on me….his mother (my father’s sister) didn’t want him to come visit. She warned him to be very careful and be ready to leave if I started acting strange…after all I was “imbalanced”. And had been institutionalized. hahaha 2 weeks in a psych ward I do not think that’s being institutionalized….sounds like I killed someone and was found mentally unstable. I was so upset…then I laughed. I keep thinking…I’m the one who was brave enough to get help. Look at the people in my family who are so messed up and won’t go for help. But after being treated like that, I can see why many are fearful of what other’s may think. Luckily, I’ve never been in that circle. and heck…I was much worse before I was treated, but she wouldn’t have said a thing then…I was just a wild child…a rebel. humph! stupid people.)

      You are the brave one, discussing your condition while in the throws of it. That is brave. I wonder if there had been blogs and such when I was first seeking help if I would have written about it? I’d like to think so.

      good luck my friend. remember, you are never alone. w

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  2. I was suicidal when I was younger. Was from neglect, emotional abuse, low self esteem and being raped twice. It is hard to pull yourself out of low places. I am so proud of where you are now and who you’ve become. And you are vigilant with yourself, too. You know who you want to be. You’re an inspiration! 🙂

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    • Oh Rita, I’m so sorry. I too was a victim of emotional and sexual abuse. (I was also raped.) You are such a strong woman! You have over came the cycle, you have a wonderful son who obviously loves you. I am proud of you. You too are an inspiration…and Karma too! : ) wendy

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  3. My Father was diagnosed Manic depressive in the late 1970’s and was put in some type of institution. I remember they drugged him so much he was moving in slow motion and didn’t know what was going on. He was also an alcholic and later was in a court-mandated alchol treatment hospital. He was orphaned at age three, lived in an orphanage with his six siblings and was sexually abused for years. I don’t know if he was on any sort of anti-depressant, but he was bad for years. God bless my Mother for staying with him. My sister also suffers with deep depression…it is a scar thin. Thanks for sharing your story Wendy. As always you are so honest with everything in your life.

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    • Mo, It can be so very difficult to see a parent or grandparent who suffers from a mental illness. I’m almost positive my grandmother was bipolar, but was never diagnosed. Her actions spoke for themselves.

      Yes, it’s a wonder your mother could be strong enough to stand by him. Did his illness have negative effects on you? Or your siblings? I know you said your sister has deep depression, I hope she can find some help and relief. My father is an alcoholic, and was mostly mentally abusive but occasionally more. This scared me for a very long time. I’m so very thankful that I found the help I needed, and was open to receiving it. (that is a big thing for people with mental illness, they often cannot see that they need help.)

      hugs to you. wendy

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  4. Your desire to speak freely is uplifting. I too am bipolar and have experienced rapid cycling. No fun at all. Sadly, I do miss the mania though it would eventually turn into a horrible experience that ruined my life on several occasions.
    Thank you for telling your story. The stigma needs to go away, and talking about it openly is a step in the right direction,

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    • bipolarmuse –
      thank you for coming by and commenting.
      I don’t talk about being bipolar often, not because I’m ashamed or hiding it, but because I’ve been mostly stable for so long. and I’ve had so much other stuff to deal with for the past few years.
      I do agree the stigma needs to go away. There is so much stigma against everyone who isn’t “normal”. As I said, I don’t talk about it often…but I don’t hide from it either.

      I visited your blog, and it’s beautiful. You words trickle off the page, water to wet the parched lips of the stranger passing by. Thank you for the drink.
      I will visit often.
      wendy

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  5. My mother was diagnosed with depression in her 60s, so I knew a little, but very little. It was not something that was discussed. The wonderful thing is, now it’s being talked about and not just during Mental Health Week. All of us have been affected by mental health, either personally or someone we interact with on a regular basis and we have to keep talking.

    I’m so glad you were able to get the help you needed. Sadly, so many are still falling through the cracks.

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    • Maureen, You are right, there is much less stigma surrounding some mental illnesses than their used to be. (it’s so funny, I hadn’t planned to post this on Mental Health Week, I didn’t even know it was mental Health Week at the time. Guess I’m just psychic that way.)

      You are also right that many people to fall through the cracks. Especially if they reach out during the holidays for help. The holidays are such a hard time and often people with mental illnesses find their problems coming to a head at that time, but there is not enough room for them. My therapist said she felt so bad for people who would call her during that time and ask if she could see a new patient right then. She simply couldn’t, her regular patients also need extra attention during that time of year, and add in that she has holiday time too. She works in a group, and they close for part of the time. She is great to her clients. She is always available to me if I need…but she couldn’t take on all the people who need help during that time. The system is far from perfect, but there are providers out there who really do care.

      I remember when they shut down the state mental hospital in Raleigh. Where did these people go? many ended up on the street. This happened in many states. There was such massive cut backs they simply did not have the funds to help people. Some of that has been corrected, but much has not. What are desperate people to do who do not have insurance, or are under insured?

      It’s just so frustrating. And people who haven’t had to try and deal with the system have no idea. People with money and insurance can get the help they need. For too many others there is no place for them to go.

      w

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      • It is very sad and frustrating. We have the same problem with cutbacks here as well and like you said, so many end up on the streets. And, living downtown, we see so many, it’s heartbreaking. And they are so vulnerable that many also get caught up in drugs and alcohol. There are different programs that are helping people, but with limited funding, they are only scratching the surface.

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        • Maureen, Exactly…same here. It’s just a shame. It seems the more you need help, the less likely you are to get it.

          we have a mission here in Durham…that’s pretty darn big…and they are doing amazing work with the homeless. they bought a motel, and renovated it. They help train people, get them jobs, teach them how to be responsible with money, help them with substance abuse, and getting help for people with mental illnesses….they feed a lot of people. There are rules people have to follow, but it’s good. One of the best things, they keep families together. Many shelters keep women separate from the men, and many don’t accept children. So the children end up in foster care…ect…it’s a harsh world out there.

          I thought about volunteering there, but they expect everyone to be Christian and stress that…I’m not into proselytizing. and don’t think people should feel they have to conform to a certain religion to get help.

          But really they to a great service.

          We also have another group here that gives people second chances. They give jobs to people who have been in jail, who are recovering addicts….ect. They have strict rules, but they teach them a trade, and give them a job. They build houses, have a custom frame shop (for pictures), a moving company….I’m not sure what all they have but it’s extensive, and they do great work!! We’ve used them for moving a couple of times and they were so polite and conciseness. So there are places that are doing good. But so much more is needed.

          so very much more. w

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  6. i do not have any experience with bipolar disorder so this post was very informative for me. also reading the comments was very moving and really shed some light on a subject that i had heard about but never took the time to consider on a deeper level. that’s why i love your blog. you post what’s real and this may be one of your most important posts yet. you’re reaching out to those who suffer and to those like me who are misinformed and really don’t fully grasp the ramifications of the disorder.

    we have a state mental hospital here. do they no longer have the one in raleigh? they are spending millions on expanding the rebuilding this one. which is good for us but seeing as how we’re so far west in the state i don’t see how that’s useful to the state in general.

    thanks so much for sharing your story. and thanks to the commenters above for sharing theirs as well. i wish you all the best.
    ~nicki

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    • Nicki, Dorthea Dix used to be the state Mental Hospital here, now they only have a Forensic Minimum Security Unit, and some out patient stuff. Everything else was transferred to the Central Regional Hospital in Butner. I know when they first closed Dorthea Dix as an inpatient facility they just released many of these patients. Only the “hard core” patients were sent elsewhere. (usually patients who were sent there by the courts.)

      Now they have been building a mental facility at the State Prison, so they can take care of that sort of thing. But again, it will only be for patients sent by the courts.

      When I was in the mental hospital is was a private hospital (Holly Hill). Luckily, I had insurance that covered inpatient stays. (however, they kept me longer than my insurance would pay for without my permission, and since I was “involuntarily” committed I found a loop-hole and didn’t have to pay them the extra. I can only imagine the people who go into great amounts of debt because they get bills like this. I found I could not be held accountable for anything I signed while being deemed incompetent. (worked for the psychiatrist bills I incurred while there too, especially since I did not like him and requested a different doctor.)

      Just an FYI, and something I was thinking about recently.

      I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the bipolar community on this post. I may write more. But since I’m stable, I don’t know how much I have to share that’s current. Other than my fears of it happening again….if the medication stops working…things like that.

      thank you for the inspiration to continue to be open and honest. What a great complement! xo w

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  7. First stop of catch up 😀 ! I am so proud that you did this ! and as per usual, you write the best posts ! I dont know alot about BPD, but in saying that, it is hard to understand because when you do research it doesnt really show what it is like and what can happen.
    I dont think you were cruel back then, you wre just sick and didnt know 😦
    That is scary about the credit card bills and things, and the risk taking, but you know what, this is all part of what has tuned you into the wonderful person you are today, and you should be so proud of yourself for what you have been through!.
    I know what you mean about getting scared about PMS and things, I am the same, i even get scared when it is hot and I am sweating because I cante ven tell if it is hot anymore or if I am panicking!
    I am so glad that you went to the hospital and that it helped so much too, I asked my doctor if I could go and he said it would make me worse because i would be confined 😦
    nd yes, it is an illness that will always be there in the background, but it does not define who you are ! xxxxxx

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